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CCSD student suicides up sharply; many say virtual learning is not working for them

The Clark County School District Headquarters at Sahara and Decatur in Las Vegas as seen in July 2020
Posted at 7:38 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 00:20:00-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Zamier Marshall had high expectations for his senior year at Liberty High School.

"I just couldn't wait to be that senior with a couple of classes," Marshall said. "Going to school late, leaving early, coming back for football practice."

After three years of regular 12-hour days, Marshall was looking forward to a lighter class schedule and the chance to defend a state championship. Then COVID-19 hit - school went virtual and football got delayed.

"You do get depressed a little because I can't speak for everybody else, but me, I only went to school to play football," he said. "I do good in school and I keep my grades up and I know school is important but football is my motivation."

RELATED: CCSD will not be returning to school buildings this semester

For someone with a 3.8 GPA and plans to go out of state for college, Marshall said virtual class is not preparing him the way he thought it would.

"I would rather go back to school and put the work in than take the easy way out because that's what I feel like I'm doing with virtual learning," he said. "It's not getting me ready for college."

Marshall is one of more than 300,000 CCSD students in remote learning. One of many who are struggling to make this model work for them. Recent CCSD data tells a seemingly contradictory story. Many of the district's indicators of mental health have dropped compared to last year. There have been fewer tips submitted to the anonymous SafeVoice app, fewer calls to the Department of Family Services, and significantly fewer reports of suicide ideation. And yet, suicides are up.

RELATED: CCSD Trustees spar over hybrid learning plan, 'mental health and academic crisis' grows

"We've lost more this year than all of last year in this first semester," said CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara.

Jara said 11 students have committed suicide since August. Last school year, there was one.

Jara also said there are likely many factors at play.

"When you really look at the social isolation, when you look at what's happening to the economy and at home, there's a lot of factors and kids not being in school," he said.

The school district is moving toward a likely hybrid model of learning come January but right now, they're stepping up mental health supports for kids across the district and implementing pilot program at 11 schools that will provide intense mental health support to students.

"These are critical. These are essential. These are the lives of our children," he said.

As for Marshall, no matter what happens this school year, his focus is on what's next.

"To say I am going to college, yes, I am going to college. Where? We're going to find out a little later. I'll be committing January 1st," he said, of his plans to play football in college.

Dr. Sheldon Jacobs is a licensed marriage and family therapist, who works with students. He said parents and caregivers should watch out for subtle changes in mood or behavior, sleep, diet and how children are interacting with others. Jacobs said social distancing doesn't have to mean social isolation.

"Parents I think have a responsibility to be open-minded and to be supportive and just to listen," Jacobs said.

Parents and caregivers can also get creative - planning virtual groups for the kids with friends and heading outside.

"A lot of places people can't go outside because it's so cold," he said. "We're still able to get outside and get some of the Vitamin D which really is not only important but it's also vitamins for our mental health too."

Dr. Jacobs said if a child is really struggling, parents should use every resource available to them including therapy. Mental health resources are available here.